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East County benefits from casino delay

Community has two years to work with lawmakers and others

Two businessmen who want to build a casino in Wood Village have decided to ditch their proposed ballot measures this year and concentrate instead on 2008. That gives East County residents two years to mount an effective defense against the casino plan.

The decision by Matthew Rossman and Bruce Studer to delay their casino-related ballot measures until November 2008 was hardly unexpected. Rossman and Studer struggled for months to get their initiative language approved by Oregon's secretary of state and attorney general. That left them with insufficient time to gather enough petition signatures prior to a July 7 deadline for the November ballot.

In a press release Monday announcing their decision to throw in the towel for 2006, Rossman and Studer blamed opponents for delaying the measures. Yet, the two Lake Oswegans weren't treated differently than anyone else who tries to bring a controversial subject to the ballot. Casino critics challenged the ballot titles and raised other questions about the proposed initiatives. The legitimacy of the opponents' arguments was confirmed by the attorney general's office, which twice advised that the initiatives should not move forward as written.

If anyone is to blame for the 2006 failure, it would be whoever wrote the proposed initiatives.

The two-year delay for the private-casino proposal allows Oregonians ample time to evaluate the inherent emptiness of this idea. East County residents also will appreciate the opportunity to make their sentiments known. Since the time The Outlook started covering this issue more than a year ago, we've received a steady stream of letters, phone calls and e-mails from people adamantly opposed to having one of the nation's largest casinos in their midst.

Those opposed to the casino now have time to organize and work with local legislators on laws that would regulate placement of any private casinos that might be proposed in the state. We don't believe Oregonians will want to take the risky step of changing the state Constitution to allow non-tribal casinos. But if they do, that doesn't mean the Wood Village site ought to be used for that purpose.

Along the same lines, East County citizens need to insist that local land-use laws - including intergovernmental agreements between Fairview, Wood Village and Gresham - be maintained and updated to ensure an appropriate scale of development in the Wood Village and Fairview town centers.

The streets and water system serving the old Multnomah Greyhound Park are inadequate to handle a project the size Rossman and Studer envision. That is only one problem with this scheme, but it is an issue that can be addressed locally through land-use planning that will not allow unsustainable development.